Wyoming approves revised grizzly agreement

CODY — The latest effort to delist Yellowstone area grizzly bears took a step closer Tuesday. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a revised tri-state Memorandum of Agreement regarding the management and allocation of discretionary mortality of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It aims to address some of the issues raised by the court when the bears were returned to the ESA in 2018.

“Wyoming has worked collaboratively with Idaho and Montana to make these updates,” said Rick King, G&F chief of wildlife. 

The revised MOA recognizes the expanding number of grizzly bears that have extended beyond the bear’s biological and socially suitable range. With refined population estimates, data shows the population number is more than 1,000 bears, far beyond all scientific requirements for a recovered, viable population. 

“Today’s action by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is a crucial step in Wyoming’s efforts to regain management of grizzly bears,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a release. “The updated Memorandum of Agreement between Idaho and Montana continues a long tradition of working together with our sister states.

“This approval reaffirms Wyoming’s vow and commitment to long-term grizzly bear conservation and underscores the fact that wildlife management is best placed in the hands of states, not the federal government.”

The revisions also include an explicit commitment to the grizzly bear’s long-term genetic health and will provide for translocation of bears into the population, as needed, to maintain genetic diversity. 

The MOA will still need approval from Idaho and Montana through their respective commissions and directors before Wyoming files a delisting petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In September, Gordon and G&F Director Brian Nesvik held a press conference to announce the start of this push. 

At the time, they said that, having addressed the two main issues raised in the 9th Circuit Court ruling to support re-listing, they are confident the federal government will consent to the request. 

Even if the Fish and Wildlife Service deems after a 90-day check that the delisting is warranted, there would then be a one-year study period before a final ruling would be handed down. 

Grizzly bears were last delisted in 2017 before being re-listed the following year, a day before a hunt for as many as 22 grizzly bears was set to begin.